Seven players can give Guardiola a transfer headache at Euro 2020

Given the choice, Pep Guardiola would probably prefer that most of his Manchester City players weren’t playing in an international tournament this summer.

City have been playing for 11 of the last 12 months for three days a week, and their players need a rest. But the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on football continue this summer with the rearranged Euro 2020 tournament starting this week, with 15 City players involved.

So while Guardiola may be looking through his fingers, hoping no players pick up any serious injuries, he might also be hoping for some under-performing players to rediscover form ahead of next season.

He will also be interested to see how some fringe players perform when given more responsibility to play than they get at City, with some players hoping to force their way back into Guardiola’s thinking – possibly changing his transfer plans in the process.

Starting with the players who have been linked with a potential exit from City this summer, it feels like a big tournament for Raheem Sterling.

After a season that hasn’t been terrible by any stretch, but has fallen below his ridiculously high standards, he could benefit from some big performances for England. With competition high in the Three Lions’ forward areas, Sterling must use his experience to win his place and bounce back from some mixed performances for City in recent weeks.

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Do that, before returning for a strong pre-season, and Sterling can silence any further talk of him being used in a swap deal for Harry Kane or any other target.

Other players reportedly being lined up for transfers out are defenders Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake. Both restricted to playing back-up roles to John Stones and Ruben Dias for much of the season, the Euros might offer a chance for the two centre-backs to get some much-needed game time to remind Guardiola of their qualities.

Laporte has apparently started to interest Barcelona, so a good tournament for his new international side Spain could boost his own prospects of playing regularly next season – whether at City, the Nou Camp, or elsewhere. It would be a shame to see him leave the Etihad, but playing at the top level as a first choice defender is clearly important to Laporte. Maybe he can use Spain to show Guardiola why he needs to play more of a part next season.

Elsewhere in the Spain squad, all eyes will be on Ferran Torres, who has impressed for his country this season. A hat-trick against Germany last year will take headlines, although Torres’ all-round attacking is a major part of Spain’s arsenal going into the Euros. More of the same, and he could force Guardiola into a headache of how to fit him into the attack back at City next season.

Then there are players who may get chances for their countries in positions where Guardiola is reluctant to use them. Aleks Zinchenko is a left-back at City, but a midfielder for Ukraine. With nothing to lose this summer, Ukraine might catch a few eyes and Zinchenko could play a key role in any success they have. Maybe he can show Guardiola he is worth a shot in midfield?

Similarly, Phil Foden has just won the PFA and Premier League Young Player of the Year awards for his performances on the wing, but his long-term future surely lies in a centre or attacking midfield role. England have so many forward options, Foden could be asked to occupy those central roles, and Guardiola will be watching closely to see how he does.

And the only non-City player on this list could give Guardiola a similar headache.

Jack Grealish continues to be linked with City, and Guardiola hasn’t hidden his admiration for the Aston Villa captain in the past. A strong showing this summer could persuade City bosses that Grealish has the quality, temperament and tactical awareness to perform on the biggest stage alongside a higher-quality set of players than he will find at Aston Villa.

If he can do that, it will be hard for City to ignore him for much longer, and a difficult decision might have to be made over whether to make a move or not.